Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Troops!

May you know the peace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as you celebrate His birth and His gift of salvation to all mankind.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How the Coach Won My Heart - Part 9 (for real this time)

Should have thought this through better.

I mean, as if it's not ALREADY Christmas season with eight kids and school activities and parties (did I sign up for two dozen sugar cookies or three?) times 6 and Christmas gifts to buy and wrap and forheavenssake you can't just let the house GO. Can you?

But here I am.

As promised.

And even though I was tempted to bail the whole "Part 9" thing and join up on Boo Mama's Christmas Tour of Homes, I took one look around my sweet, blessed home and decided this is NOT the year for that.

And besides, she already has 524 links. Who wants to see one more Christmassey house when you've seen 524? As dear and wonderful as our house is, it's not really blog material, if you know what I mean. What with all of the kids and homemade decorations and all.

So here we go. . . .

The wedding plans began in a flurry. The morning after the Coach's surprise (to me) proposal, my mom and I headed out to the door to find "the" dress. You know the one? THE dress? Well, we didn't find it that day, but we DID find it the second day. Only to be told by the VERY proper, yet kind, dress shop lady that there was NO WAY they could have it in and altered in 7 short weeks. NO WAY. But she must have had pity when she saw my face because she promised to try - with the dress I tried on as a back up. It happened to be my size.

One of the tricky parts of planning a wedding is the DETAILS. Those pesky little things. Truthfully the Coach and I didn't know each other very well, so I continually fell back on one thing. Nothing mattered. Except marrying him.

This worked well for me. Only because I believed it with all my heart.

Wedding in a PRETTY, old, traditional church? I could live without it once the Coach said he thought we should get married in our own church where we met and had gone for years with room for everyone.

Reception downtown in the Petroleum Club on the top of the tallest building in our city? I could live without that, too, when the Coach's mom mentioned that she wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the reception without losing people in the transfer - especially people who maybe wouldn't want to go downtown, park, find their way, etc.

When it came to the wedding party (you have to keep in mind all of these major things had to be decided RIGHT AWAY ALREADY because we had so little time), we debated. He had 9 siblings. And five of them were married. I had two brothers. Both married. I didn't have any sisters, he had 7 brothers. It was complicated. And we only had eight weeks. So we decided to make it VERY simple. His youngest brother (still living at home) would be his best man. My best friend would be my maid of honor. His baby sister (then 10) would be a Jr. Bridesmaid. And that was it.

Dad (his) would marry us. The boys (my brothers and his) would be ushers. And because there were already quite a few nieces and nephews, we'd forgo the flower girl/ring bearer thing for the sake of time.

And thank heavens, it was CHRISTMASTIME! That made picking music and decorations so very much easier.

CHRISTMAS was already my favorite time of year. Favorite. So we picked Christmas carols and classical Christmas music and poinsettias and twinkling lights and big red and green bows and a black velvet Bridesmaid dress (and Jr.) and red roses.

The day came when we went to register at Dillards. Little did I know how much of the Coach's personality was showing. I didn't realize it at the time, of course. I had the foresight to go ahead of time and pick some options, so he would have less to wade through. It was a good thing. He lasted about 10 minutes. But he did tell me what he liked and we managed to get it all down. We were amazingly similar in our tastes - not having know each other long. Traditional. Simple. Practical.

One big mistake I made (he's forgiven me. . . I think) was adding Spode Christmas China to our registry, later, without asking him first. My mother had it, we used it growing up for the month of December. And I loved it. And we were getting married at Christmas! So I added it, really thinking it wasn't a big deal.

Except. Everyone saw it on our registry and thought OH how fun! And until our new set of dishes a year ago (thanks Mom!) we had more Christmas Spode than any other dish in our house! And I still love it. The Coach? Well, he didn't fully appreciate it until. . . well. . . I'm still working on it!

The showers began in full force with dates filling up faster than I could count. I took a trip with my family to Michigan just a few days after our engagement began and when I returned, we only had about 7 possible weeks left. I used the time away to order invitations and reserve the church, etc.

We filled the time quickly. We had kitchen showers, personal showers, brunches, Christmas ornament showers, nine in all! And lots of pretty, wonderful things to begin our lives with.

But a place to live? Not so simple.

We wanted to be close to the Coach's school, after all. He was coaching basketball TOO at that point (he coached football and basketball until our 5th was born), so being closer to school would mean a lot more time together.

We looked at apartments, rent houses, garage apartments, everything we could think of or heard about.

Finally we had a break through. A little rent house still being remodeled a few miles from school. It might be ready when we got back from our honeymoon. It wouldn't have a yard or any other "extras" at that point (it had been moved to the lot). It would have new paint and carpet, though. And it was the perfect location. We paid our first month's rent and hoped it would work out.

Although I know most would think it strange that the Coach and I were getting married (and quickly!) without knowing each other very well, it was truly wonderful. We didn't have a lot of time, honestly. He was working - teaching and coaching - more than full time. We both had very full lives. But the wonderful part about it was, that as our wedding drew nearer, every little thing we learned about one another was so precious. It was safe. We belonged to one another. And sharing our hopes and dreams and truly our hearts with each other was amazing.

And I knew all that I needed to know. I knew what mattered. He had let me see his heart - to follow hard after God. Determined to do the right thing. Realizing God's hand in bringing us together. Purposing to follow Him together.

And HOW I loved looking at him! (just being honest here)

With time to spare (ha!) we had everything set. The invitations sent, the ceremony planned, the dresses bought, the tuxes rented, the florist hired, the musicians asked, the reception planned, the honeymoon reservations made, the house rented. All set to go. Even my dress made in it in five weeks!

I couldn't believe it as I watched my "somedays" becoming "today"s before my eyes. And to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had brought us to this point and would carry us as we began life together.

And then, four days before the wedding, we found out the house wouldn't be ready to occupy until we got back from our honeymoon. No cleaning ahead of time, no moving stuff in so it would be ready for us. . .when we returned. . .on Christmas Eve.

Right about that time (four days and counting), the Coach called to tell me he had pneumonia. . .

Happy Anniversary, Coach!

(I love you so much more today than I did 14 years ago - and what an amazing adventure it's been!)

Friday, December 12, 2008

How the Coach Won My Heart - Part 9 - Coming Soon

Next Wednesday, the Coach and I will celebrate 14 years of marriage.
Well . . .we won't actually celebrate ON Wednesday. I mean, that's a week day. And a school day. And there's NO way we could get away ON that day. Even for a minute.

BUT. . .

We will celebrate.

In our own way. We aren't exactly the "trip to Cancun" type. Not even "resort in the mountains" type.

We're more like the "take-out and a movie without the kids" type.

After all, one of these days we'll be able to go and do whatever. When our house isn't full of little people.

But for now, a quiet moment, a movie we haven't had the time to see, a roaring fire - it all sounds divine. (and I'm open for movie suggestions, by the way)

And I'm already looking forward to it.

In the meantime, it seemed appropriate to wrap up the last couple of parts to "How the Coach Won My Heart."

Which is kind of a sad prospect.

However, the truth is, he continues to win my heart each and every day.

*Putting all of the little ones to bed for me? I melt.

*Bringing the kids home from school? I'm putty in his hands.

*Writing me a sweet e-mail to tell me I'm beautiful? I'll follow him to the ends of the earth.

So you see, the story isn't OVER for us. Each day it continues as we learn to live and love and grow together. Raising the eight children that God has blessed us with for His glory. Growing in our understanding, our patience, our determination to seek the Lord in all things.

And along the way, having a whole lot of fun.

So join me here in the next few days for the temporary "end" to our story.

"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." I Cor. 2:9

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Memories

Before the holidays get out of hand here at the Troops, I wanted to tell you about something we do as a family each year.

In time for you to think about it and plan for it and include it in YOUR traditions.

It all started with the Coach's Mom and Dad. And their ten.

They would start a couple of weeks before Christmas, on nights when everyone could be home.

They would line up 13 candles (Mom, Dad, 10 kids and one tall white one in the center) on the piano.

Each evening would be one of the kids "turn" and the other kids would go around and tell what they appreciated about that sibling.

Then the sibling whose night it was would tell about when they were saved. Give their testimony. Some of the younger ones couldn't do this, of course.

After all of the kids were talked about and I guess Mom and Dad (although I don't remember hearing about that part), on the last night they would light the center, tall, white candle, and Papa would share the gospel.

I'm sure that's not exactly how it worked, I wasn't THERE, you know. But the kids have precious memories of that time. Mom even wrote down what the kids said about each other on index cards that she will bring out and read to us now and then. Priceless!

My family (parents and siblings and nieces and nephews) developed a similar tradition as we grew older. We sit together as families, with candles, and starting with the oldest (which I'm not - ha!) my brothers, sister-in-laws and their children from oldest to youngest tell two things. First, something they are grateful for that God did in the past year. Second, something they are praying for in the coming year.

Of course, most years ours have included the addition of a new baby or the anticipation of one! It is an encouragement to hear what God is doing in everyone's lives and what their desires are to see Him do. As each shares, they light their candle from the last person until the room is filled with candlelight. The children's words are particularly sweet and usually unexpected!

And Grandmother (my mom) writes it all down so we can read the years through, later.

Papa (the Coach's daddy) has revised the tradition a bit as the kids have left and now have families of their own. Now we gather on Christmas morning. He lights the candles all at once - reminding the 53 grandchildren of which candle belongs to whom (they are always trying to figure out which one is THEIR daddy's or mommy's). Then he asks a couple of the kids (his) to share their testimonies with the grandchildren. Then he shares the gospel and usually a story about one of the kids, the family, or something that has happened in the last year.

It's something we all look forward to for the whole year! I've only missed it once in 14 years (my first Christmas with the Coach was as a bride of one week!), when Daughter (#2) had a fever and the Coach took the other kids and left us to rest. Or maybe that happened twice.

Good grief - is someone ALWAYS sick around here?

You'd think we have a bunch of kids or something.

Just kidding.

Hope that you will add something like this to the special things you do over Christmas. Sharing with one another the Hope that is within you. Leaving a legacy for your children of recognizing and acknowledging God's moving in your lives and family.

I promise you will remember it long after the presents are forgotten.

(candle photo is from

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thankful Thursday - just go with it, OK?

This will be long. I apologize in advance.
I know it's not Thursday.

But I didn't figure that out until I'd been on the treadmill for about 2 miles at 5 something this morning.
You know how some weeks the days get all mixed up?
Tell me I'm not the only one that does this!
At least it was a day behind and not the other way around.
It's terrible to wake up and think "FRIDAY! YEAH!" and then realize that it's not.

I'm going to give credit to our nasty stomach virus that keeps on giving.

But is hopefully all given out.


So here's yesterday's list - which I didn't do yesterday because I was hand addressing the Christmas cards.

And there is only so much "disposable" time in a day. I spent all of that and some laundry, dishes and house time, as well.

1. The Christmas cards are mailed! Woo hoo!

2. No one has thrown up for almost 48 hours! Woo hoo!

3. I'm sitting in a unusually quiet house with a Diet D.P. from Sonic and I'm on the computer. IS there anything so lovely?

4. Daughter (#2) stayed home to rest today (she was the most recent victim of aforementioned stomach virus - round 2) and was delightful company. Almost makes me want to homeschool. But then she'd have to DO school and I'm fairly certain that wouldn't be fun for long.

5. The Coach brought the kids home from school three days this week. THREE! That means THREE days I stayed home all day. Does it get any better?

6. Football season is over. It IS sad that they lost last Saturday (while I was battling the forces of the evil virus having taken over 6 of the kids. By myself.) But what a year!

7. The Coach has been home more this week than the last four months combined! I'm starting to remember why I married him in the first place. He's wonderful!

8. A "Girl's Night" on Tuesday celebrating the arrival of our newest niece (we have 57 nieces and nephews - all VERY loved!).

9. Heat. And that we live in the central part of the US. Because I'm a big weenie when it comes to the cold. Big time. In fact I'm cold right now. And I can't imagine how people further North survive Winter without freezing to death. They must have warmer clothes than I do.

10. Flannel Sheets. Crazy Daisy brought me some. And they are RED! Can you believe it? I wasn't sure about the whole thing - being a high thread count cotton girl for SO long. But lately I can't seem to get or stay warm (the Coach says it has nothing to do with our thermostat being on 60) and the sheets are AMAZING. LOVE THEM. What a sweet friend.

11. And speaking of. I actually got to SEE and HUG Crazy Daisy's neck on Friday. How awesome is that? And for future reference, anyone who brings you flannel sheets deserves a big hug!

12. A free Saturday. Tomorrow. Divine. Can't remember the last one we had. Was it July?

13. The tree is up. Just up. But I'm grateful. It's a start!

And last but not least, I know I've been somewhat delinquent in the kiddo's birthday department, but I'm going to catch up. Soon.

We celebrated Daughter (#7) turning four in October. Four. Another year or so and she can take over my job. I'm not even kidding.

And then ON Thanksgiving, my sweet little Peanut, Daughter (#5), turned 7. SEVEN. Never mind that she's the size of her 4 year old sister. She's very grown up - I can't wait to tell you about her.

And last but not least, my eldest, my firstborn son, turned THIRTEEN on Saturday. He had the most interesting birthday ever in the history of our family. His dad gone all day at the week 3 class A football playoffs and six younger siblings puking all over the place. What a trooper. Seriously. He has the best attitude ever. And he's grateful, too, which makes life a lot more fun. And did I mention he's taller and WAY stronger than I am? Love it.

We had a proper celebration on Wednesday. I'll tell you about it, later.

Remember I said I had a lot to be grateful for? Well, this only touches the tip of the iceberg, but I hope it's made you think about all that God has done for you this week.

Most importantly, whether your life is good, difficult or impossible, He's given you the Hope of Salvation in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Thank Him for that today.

And leave me a comment and tell me what YOU are thankful for! Yesterday, today, just PICK ONE and tell me something.

Happy Thursday. OH - I mean FRIDAY! IT'S FRIDAY! YEAH!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nothing is ever simple. . .

Don't you wonder why?

I mean, theoretically speaking, I should be able to make a few recent address changes, sync my PDA with my computer, run a mail merge and have Christmas card envelopes printed in nothing flat.

But for some reason, I've already spent about 3 hours on it.

And that was before I realized that the list on my computer that I was making changes to was pre-2007 Christmas cards. What? And that none of my changes saved. Hmmmm?

I could have hand addressed them all by now. Good grief.

And the tree is up, although not decorated.

It does have lights.
(it's been six days since we started)

Then I tried to take some video of Little Man's incoherent babbling. But alas, when I turned the camera on he was silent. And he's never silent.

But life is good.

Even if it's not simple.

And it's a good thing that tomorrow is Thursday because OH BOY do I have a lot to be thankful for!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Guess what, GUESS WHAT?

We have a winner!

Actually, we have TWO winners!

My sweet friend over at Magnificent Manager let me pick TWO!

Don't you LOVE IT?

And since some of you are my in-real-life friends, I used to pick the winners so everything would be fair. (although I can hear myself saying - about 200 times a day - "Guys, LIFE IS NOT FAIR. But this drawing is!)

Drumroll please. . .

Winner #1:

JO! From over at Jo's Kitchen Table. You go girl!

Winner #2:

micaela6955 with the msn e-mail. Woo hoo!

Congratulations to you both!

Just send me an e-mail at sometime today and I will send you your certificate for $20 of free product!

How fun is that?

For those of you who didn't win, be sure and check out MM's great sale going on RIGHT NOW for holiday shopping.

(And I completely apologize for not getting this done last night. Let's just say the wet carpets, Jr. High basketball game, kids everywhere and lingering effects of the stomach virus did me in - I went to bed early!)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sometimes I wonder. . .

If I can clean up vomit one more time. . .

If I'll ever get all of the sheets, towels, pillows, blankets, sleeping bags and jammies washed. . .

If all of the kids will be back at school any time soon. . .

If I can possibly have things ready for the carpet cleaners today. . .

If I will actually get sick, too. . .

If I have any sympathy left for sick kids. . .

If our house will ever smell nice, again. . .
(it was doubtful BEFORE the stomach virus)

What in the world I should make for dinner. . .

If there is enough Lysol and bleach in the world. . .

If my hands will ever feel soft, again. . .

If I have enough big plastic bowls. . .

If I will actually get a shower today. . .

How long Little Man will have the runs. . .

Why I ever thought "normal" was hard. . .

~But one thing I DON'T wonder about:

God is the blessed controller of all things.

And I trust Him.

(In spite of the smell.)